Cliche as it may sound, Drew Hunter might be the most talented high school runner we’ve seen in many years. The Virginia native will attend UO next fall, where he will look to run into more record books on behalf of the Ducks.
Hunter, currently a senior at Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville, has had one heck of a career so far. He was the 2015 FootLocker National Champion, and in the 2016 Track and Field season alone, Hunter has broken 4 minutes in the mile – twice. He also set a high school record for the 3000m.
Hunter’s parents are his coaches, but according to Runner’sWorld.com, his workouts are assigned by Tom “Tinman” Schwartz, an online coach who helped train Hunter’s mother. Coincidentally, Hunter’s times are approaching those of a certain runner his parents also once coached – arguably one of the greatest male high school runner ever - Alan Webb.
While Hunter remains humble in his approach to running, the people who know him closest offer high praise.
For some perspective on Hunter’s accomplishments, we have to take a step backward. In the first race after Hunter won the 2015 Footlocker National Championship in Southern California with a blistering course time of 14.55, he ran a 7:59 3k to break Edward Cheserek’s previous high school record of 8:05.
Another fitting comparison is to Webb. For those who don’t remember, Webb was the first high schooler to break 4 minutes on an indoor track in 2001. Hunter ran 3:58 on the same track – the famous New York City Armory – in 2016. Only two weeks later, Hunter ran the mile again at the Millrose Games and set another personal record with a time of 3:57!
It made sense for Hunter to attempt to break 4 minutes during that race. He had decided to not participate in the Wanamaker Mile, which would have put him up against serious world-class competition. That goes to show Hunter’s maturity.
Here he is, an unbelievable high school athlete, but his success isn’t going to his head. Instead of getting smoked in a mile, the race he chose to do “was a perfect race. Ford [Palmer] did a great job rabbiting,” Hunter said in a later interview with FloTrack.org.
He added,”I wanted to race with guys who were my potential.” So he’s a smart runner, fast and knows the best time to race.
Interestingly enough, Webb predicted Hunter’s sub-4 performance.
— Alan Webb (@alan_webb1) February 2, 2016
At the prestigious Penn Relays, he became the first runner to win the 3k and the mile since Matthew Centrowitz, Jr. - another gifted UO alumnus who currently runs under Alberto Salazar for the Nike Oregon Project. This year, Hunter became the first high schooler in history to win three separate events when he ran the mile anchor in 4-flat in the Distance Medley Relay to win by .001!
Loudoun Valley was in 7th place when Hunter took the baton. For those who are unfamiliar with the distance relay, it is so mentally difficult to make a comeback if your team doesn’t appear to be in contention. To come back from nine seconds out of first place to win takes some serious dedication.
Along with Hunter’s personal accomplishments, it was the school’s first appearance in the event, and one that will undoubtedly be talked about for ages to come in his neck of the woods and beyond.
Taking into account these amazing times and performances, the question becomes, “Can he improve on his times, or will he simply maintain?”
Hunter has proved he can race with some of the best in the nation.
“Drew truly doesn’t get nervous or anxious,” said Joan Hunter, via Runner’s World. He possesses the skill to run with both professionals and collegiate athletes.
When he trains with the elite field of runners here at Oregon, only time will tell what he can accomplish. But the future absolutely looks bright.
Top Photo by John Nepolitan